8th Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 11 – A)
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
August 23, 2023
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel from Saint Matthew.
If you took a few minutes to peruse my movie collection, you’d discover that I love action movies, especially those with good stories, car chases, and shoot outs. A staple of action movies is a good guy seeking vengeance on those who did something horrible to him or his family. He sets out to right the wrongs and to punish evildoers. He will be the bearer of justice. And we do like seeing the bad guys get what’s coming to them, don’t we? We cheer when the good guy wins and rides off into the sunset.
If only real life was as simple as a Hollywood film. In real life not all the wrongs are made right, evil is left unpunished, and wickedness wins. When we witness miscarriages of justice, especially close to home, we think that if we were in charge, evil would receive its just deserts. This urge to weed out evil is only natural, but Jesus tells you that it’s not your job.
The parables of Jesus are not moral lessons, rather they’re meant to teach us about God and how He works through His Son. Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.” Jesus sows good seed, His children, and what happens? Satan comes along and plants evil seeds right on the top of the good seed. The great enemy of God, sows wickedness and Sin which then gets all tangled up with the good and holy that God planted. When you see evil around you, you want to do something about it, and sometimes you can. Usually though you can’t because Satan has a lot of experience sowing weeds, and in this life, he can’t be stopped. Think about how our prisons are overflowing because there’s always an evil person to take the place of one taken out of commission. You can’t avoid weeds of evil and wickedness, all you can do is pray the Lord preserves you from their poison.
It’s clearly permissible to pray that God does something about the wicked. We should pray that the enemies of God are turned from their wickedness and repent. And if they won’t, we pray their attempts to promote evil are hindered. While you can’t stop all evil and wickedness, you don’t give up the fight. You can’t ignore evil and wickedness. You can’t close your eyes to it. You must identify it and call it out. It is by calling out evil where it is found that we serve, help, and protect the innocent. When it comes to actual destruction of evil, that’s best left to those who are better equipped.
When the weeds spout, the workers ask the master: “Do you want us to go and gather them?” The workers want to immediately go to work on the weeds; it’s the next logical step. The master though knows it’s not something that can be done rashly. He responds that those doing the harvesting will do the separating. It’s not that the workers were incapable of removing the weeds, but as Jesus says, “Lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them…let both grow together until the harvest.” The weeds in this parable are named darnel. Darnel looks like wheat until it comes to a head when the weed has a black head. This means that the wicked are so enmeshed with the righteous that removing the weeds could hurt the wheat. The Master says to still let them grow together because He knows what’s best for the crop. You may wonder how leaving the wicked in this world is best for you, I certainly wonder.
So, let’s think this through for a minute. If the Lord just zapped bad guys when they stepped out of line, what impact could that have on you? Would you be grieved that a fellow soul was lost eternally? Or would you be ecstatic God zapped someone who needed to be zapped? What if one of the wicked that was struck down by God would’ve later on repented and been saved? Now that chance is lost. What would happen if we constantly saw the vengeance of God? Would we still turn to Him for help with our sin or would we fear Him? Would we think that we too will be struck down if we step out of line? Would we seek His help or just His vengeance? Would we admit that we all deserve to be punished like the others?
This is a good time for us to take an introspective look at our own hearts. We may not be what that world calls evil, but there are plenty of times we’re not so easily distinguished from the weeds. We can hide our sin and wickedness from others, but we can’t from God. You are His special crop, the ones He planted specifically in this world to belong to Him. When you act like a noxious weed, repent and seek His mercy. The Sower of last Sunday’s Gospel and the Master of this Sunday’s Gospel is the same man – it’s Christ! The Master has separated you from the weeds and you are restored by the crucified Savior. Yes, that was by all appearances, a day wickedness prevailed. But you know the truth! That was a good Friday, so rejoice that you’re seeds made good and holy by Christ Jesus. You’ve been washed in the blood of Christ and sown as a member of His crop.
The Master knows that that He will use the wickedness of people for your own good. Saint Paul writes, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). You may never see how God will use a wicked person for your good. You may never understand the tragic scenes that play before your eyes every day. You may never see how evil is used for good. That is not a satisfying statement when you want to see someone get what’s coming to them. It is, however, the truth and it’s also a matter of faith. Paul writes, “If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom 8:25). Yes, evil is all around us, and I know that you have experienced it firsthand. What I also know is that the one who sows the seed is also the loving gardener. Rather than risk the eternal safety of the good plants, He allows evil to co-exist. And until the harvest, He will tend to you, His crop. He waters you with the Holy Spirit when you’re spiritually dry. He dries your tears when you’re hurt again. He cleanses your guilt and shame of the evil done to you. He is the Sun of Righteousness who shines on you the rays of love and forgiveness. He is the one who will never fail you by letting the weeds win. He is also the proof that one day all wickedness will be destroyed. Think about this: if the wickedness of those who hated Him, the nails of those who crucified Him, the temptations of the evil one didn’t defeat Him, they’re not going keep Him from saving you nor keep Him from executing His holy judgment.
Jesus wants you to find abundant peace knowing that the wicked will not be allowed to exist indefinitely; they’ll be gathered when the time has come. Angels serve as messengers in the Bible, they also are frequently mentioned as accompanying Jesus on Judgment Day. Jesus promises: “The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Evil looks like it will always have the upper hand, and that’s what it wants you to think, but your hope in this sinfully wicked nation and world is in the Lord. He says, “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it.” If God is the only God, and He is, you can take great comfort in knowing that nothing wicked will escape and nothing evil will avoid detection. Who can hide from God? It takes patience, but you can be assured that evil will be punished. It will not be part of our existence forever. God is the perfect and holy One. He alone proclaims a fair judgment, and He will punish the wicked for all eternity.
It’s not just that the weeds are harvested and burned, the wheat is also harvested and preserved. Yes, God will gather you into His barn, and you’ll live in a new world, one without sin, without evil, without wickedness or wicked people. During his Revelation Saint John hears this eternal promise: “As for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Evil will never again cast its long shadow over you. The weeds will no longer be tangled up with the wheat. You’ll be free of all the evil you know so well in this life once and for all.
And trust in the Lord with all things, even your struggles with the wicked of this life, and you’ll see that God will always do what is best for His crops, which includes punishing the evil for eternity, while you will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of God.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen